If you have read my previous posts, you know I am taking part in sunvssnow. I have worked my ass off for the last week trying to get my submission to be stellar and not just good. With the help of all the amazing feedback I got, I think I was able to achieve that. Granted it was a lot of hard work and definitely made me think critically about my writing. I had to condense, show, explain, reconsider age group, and ultimately, I rewrote the entire beginning to my novel. But in the end, it was absolutely worth it. In this post however, I wanted to talk about something that I had quite a few positive comments on (YAY).
Voice is something that is definitely hard to achieve in writing and it is even harder to teach. Trust me, I have tried with my English students.
One of the best ways to achieve voice is to know your character implicitly, especially the way they think and speak. Every person has specific catch phrases, ways of saying things, and mannerisms when we they speak. These make our characters who they are just as much as they make us who we are. It is something that makes characters relatable. When those characters are on print, the writer needs to use the way the characters says things coupled with those words, to give the reader a picture of who they are. Standout characters literally have a voice.
Infusing voice also means knowing your age range. I work with middle school students, ages twelve to fourteen, on a daily basis. I know how they speak and the newest phrases in teen lingo. I also know what they are talking about, what is important to them, and how they relate to both peers and adults. These are crucial. Again, it all comes back to being able to relate to the characters and believe they are real. If you can’t picture the characters and draw from them, your plot is useless. These are what give your character voice.
I personally like to pretend that my character is actually having a conversation in my head. How are they saying that line? What words are they using? What tone would they use? How would they deliver it? These key questions will also give your characters some humor and enable you to write clever dialogue or thoughts for your character that fit him/her.
It all comes down to knowing their personality and being able to deliver it with authenticity.
I am lucky enough to have gotten into #sunvssnow. We put up our query letter and our first 250 words. Then the magic happens. Writers critique the crap out of your work and then you fix it!
Alright. As unexciting as that all sounds, it really is magical I promise. But I will admit that when I found out that up to thirteen people would be critiquing my work, I was both nervous about their comments and what I would do with them. What do you take to heart and what do you ignore? So many opinions, but who has the right one? Here is what I have learned.
1) Look for the trends. What are the readers saying that is similar? I found that even though the readers could see each others’ comments, there were lots of commonalities. They agreed with each other on many issues I needed to fix. The consensus definitely helped me make a decision.
2) Choose what is most important. There were suggestions that I thought would absolutely help the story that I was trying to show (not tell). That was one piece of feedback; I was telling too much and not showing enough. Jump right into the action. That was important to me. I definitely didn’t want to bore my reader on the first page. I knew that was something I had to rework.
3) Remember everything is subjective. The people reading your work are just that, people. They have opinions on what they do and don’t like. If one person gives feedback that you don’t deem as important and necessary, throw it out. That’s okay. They won’t be crushed because you made an artistic decision. It just means you actually made a decision.
4) First thing’s first. If you are on a time crunch, choose the edits that are going to get you the most results in the time you have. Obviously, changing the perspective from first to third in four days is going to be a stretch. But look at what is doable and what will help you out the most. Then continue edits later as needed.
5) Be open minded. You cannot go into getting critiqued already on the defensive. If your work is perfect, why did you offer it up to those who could potentially shred it? Why are you not already represented and on published shelves? Take this opportunity to learn and grow as a writer. The authors have had amazing feedback for me and I am really grateful they took their time to help me.
Shoutout to all the amazing women who read my work and were kind enough to leave extensive comments. Your generosity is truly appreciated.
Although I try to keep myself busy, there are those moments when you sit and stare at your computer hoping for someone to send you an e-mail, even if it is a rejection. Since I sent out my queries in batches and I am working on another contest (go team Sun #sunvssnow), now I must wait.
I know what you are going to say: “Start another project.” Oh, I have. But no matter how much I try to ignore the fact that I am patiently waiting for responses, they haunt me. Clocks melt around me like in the Dali painting. Every time I get an e-mail alert on my phone, I jump. It’s kind of obnoxious actually. I know my husband finds it super annoying. But I can’t help it.
I may be a little overly confident, but I have always believed that if you work hard enough, anything is possible. Trust me, I have been working VERY HARD. The MG novel I am querying now got three full edits before I started submitting. I have done my homework on agents and have submitted to those that I am truly passionate about. I am reading books on voice and edits/revisions. I have begun a new and very different NA novel that I am also super excited about, even in its infancy.
Let me be honest. I have received MANY rejection letters from agents who I respect highly and truly value their opinion. But I know it only takes one. Every agent on the planet doesn’t need to fight over my work. I don’t need eighteen offers of representation because in the end I only need one agent. Like in my last post, it will take time for me to find the writing husband/wife of my dreams, but I am confident they are out there.
Unfortunately, that means I need to sit in the doldrums and wait. Ugh!
Finding an agent or publisher is a lot like dating. I am so glad I am married because I could not enter the dating scene again. The crappy part is, I am kind of doing it all over again to find an agent. The similarities are ridiculous.
1) You will meet lots before you meet the right one. It’s like going to a college party or bar and trying to pick someone up. You have to get all dressed up sometimes three or four times (editing and editing and editing) and even then you don’t always attract his attention! Grrrr.
2) You find someone, but they are definitely not what you want. You go on a date with one or two guys (agents or publishers) but just because they like you doesn’t mean they are marriage material. Start over.
3) Sometimes it is me and not you. When you just can’t get your crap together and they won’t come near you. It is time for a little self-reflection (cough cough more editing). Perhaps a little feedback from an honest and trusted friend is also called for.
4) The dream guy comes along and rejects you worse than Patrick Ewing under the hoop (do your basketball homework if you didn’t get it). You sit in your room for three days and eat chocolate without showering. Yeah it happens.
5) There are occasions where you just try way too hard and you scare the crap out of them. They run like hell. Again eat chocolate and hide for a few days.
6) Maybe someone shows interest, you give ’em the goods (partial or full ms) and you wake up the next morning alone and cold. The number they gave you doesn’t work and you never hear from them again. This time, alcohol AND chocolate are called for.
7) You wait and wait and wait and eventually you get quality you want to hold on to. You argue and fight, but always make up. Finally, you make it forever (hopefully).
After a while you must make a decision, do you want to go it alone (self-publish) or find your husband (agent) or settle (never a good idea in either scenario). I never thought I would be in the dating scene again. Here I am.